All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Call Me Charlie
Author's note: This was my final project for my creative writing class. It's based on several personal experiences, but mostly my imagination. Thanks to all my friends and classmates for their ideas and input!
“Hey Logan! Get that mutated rat out of my yard!” I shouted as we approached my house, a small one-story building surrounded only by empty dirt lots.
Logan smiled innocently. “Awww come on, Charlie! He’s only admiring your beautiful flowers! Did you plant them? They’re gorgeous!”
Liar. “He is not! He’s—Ohh, that’s disgusting. That’s it! Get out of here! NOW!”
“That just means he likes you. Besides, I don’t know why you hate him so much. I can bring Steve over if you’d like,” he said, grinning wickedly, his smile as large and evil as a crocodile’s.
“No! Don’t EVER bring that stupid snake over! Do you hear me? EVER!” And then I raced into the house while he stood there with his ugly dog laughing like a hyena.
I have this thing about snakes. I guess you could call it a phobia. They’re disgusting, slimy, hideous, freaky, nauseating, revolting little things. They are by far the worst animals on the planet. Ever since I saw one on my kitchen counter two years ago, I’ve despised them (and I still have absolutely no idea how it got there). So there was a problem when we moved in, because our neighbor, my “walking-home buddy” according to my mother, is a complete jerk, and he just happens to have a pet snake which he enjoys tormenting me with.
That one night in early July, just a couple months ago, was the night that my whole world came crashing down on me, all because of my mom’s “good” news.
We moved out a week later to the smallest town in Idaho—probably the smallest town in all of the U.S. Dad had found the perfect fairytale house: the one for the seven dwarves. It was located completely in the middle of nowhere, but apparently it was close to his new job, which supposedly made everything perfect. The nearest Walmart was many towns away, and there were about two other houses on our street—the closest one, of course, was half a mile down the street from ours. And there lived the most aggravating, cruel, selfish, conceited, insensitive creature to ever walk the earth. Yes, it was a boy.
His parents helped my family move in and invited us over for dinner a few days later. The terror began once we rang the doorbell. Instantly, I heard feet stomping around the house, a baby crying, some glass breaking, and a few shouts and screams before a tall boy, sloppily dressed with messy, dirty-blond hair pulled the door open. A glance to my parents, an odd stare to my little sister Karolyn, but the second my eyes met his, the boy’s eyebrows narrowed and the corner of his lips curled into a sneer. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, but I found out as soon as we walked into his house, it was an invitation: Welcome to torture.
We started out with dinner, gourmet spaghetti and meatballs. Logan’s mother claimed she was an “amateur” chef, but we all begged to differ. The adults began their dinner and a conversation in the dining room, leaving me, Logan, my two-year old sister, and his baby sister in the kitchen to get to know each other. I tried to be friendly, asked how he liked school, what he thought about his little sister. The only response I got was several meatballs flinging off a spoon and landing in my lap.
“It was Ellie!” Logan gestured to his little sister in the highchair, her face smeared in tomato sauce.
He must have seen the disbelief on my face, since he immediately exclaimed, “Really, Charlie, I swear, I didn’t do it!”
I still didn’t buy it, but I decided to let it go. “Yeah, yeah, fine. But it’s Charlotte, not Charlie.”
“Whatever you say, Charles.”
I changed the subject. “So, do you have any pets?”
Logan’s eyes lit up as he smirked and ran upstairs. “Sure, I’ll bring him down!”
I waited for several minutes to see his cat, or dog, or whatever it was. While he was gone, I heard little bits of our parents’ conversation.
“Logan-”… “adopted-”… “parents-”… “abandoned-”
Just then Logan came kangarooing down the stairs. In his arms and wrapped around his neck was a dirty green-colored slimy reptile. Logan grinned excitedly. “Isn’t Steve awesome?”
I jumped out of my seat and screamed. “No, it is NOT awesome! It’s freaky! Take him away, pleeeeease!”
“Why? He’s super cool and friendly, I promise. You wanna hold him, Charlie?”
I glanced at Steve’s beady yellow eyes for a second, only to jerk away my gaze, about to throw up. Logan stared at me, apparently realizing I had a phobia and that he was holding the power.
“So, like, why are you so freaked out by him? Here, it’s not as scary once you hold him.” Logan smirked and attempted to dump the pile of slime into my arms.
“NO! Stop! Please! Don’t!”
“Logan, what’s going on in there?” his mom entered the kitchen.
“Please, Mrs. Parker! Make him take the snake away!” I pleaded desperately.
“Logan, take Steve upstairs if Charlotte doesn’t like it. You know Steve isn’t allowed downstairs anyway, especially when we have guests over.”
Logan stared at the ground, feigning shame. He was very good at fooling his mother, but not me. My family left just after the snake fiasco, said some “Thank-you’s” and “Dinner was delicious’s” and “See you another time’s,” while I silently wished I’d never see them again. But my fairy godmother must have been off-duty.
Logan was the only person I knew when school started in the fall, which really wasn’t an advantage on my part. I don’t even want to know half the things he said about me to the other kids. He didn’t even spare me from any torment on my very first day of seventh grade.
It was a nightmare.
“Class, this is Charlotte. She’s new at our school so I want you to give her an extra big welcome,” announced my new teacher, Ms. Wood as I entered the room, trying to ignore the snickering faces glaring at me.
“Charlotte, would you like to share anything interesting about yourself so we can get to know you better?” Ms. Wood asked.
My mind went blank as I anxiously tried to think. “Ummm--”
“Charlie’s terrified of snakes! And she almost got sick when she saw one!” Logan offered a bit too generously.
I could feel my face turn an intense shade of red. Logan released his hyena cackle, relishing in my embarrassment. My fingernails dug deep into the palm of my hand, nearly breaking my skin as my hands clasped into a fist. I was all but ready to strangle.
Ms. Wood hastily came to my defense. “Logan, you have no right to interrupt our new classmate or to share any information that isn’t any of your business.”
“Oh, but it was my business,” Logan remarked impudently. “It was my pet snake, Steve, who almost gave her a heart attack!”
“Logan, that’s enough! Charlotte, you can sit in that seat right there.” Ms. Wood gestured to a desk across the room. I admired her wisdom in keeping me as far away from Logan as possible.
At lunch I sat alone. I didn’t know anyone except for Logan, who had already managed to embarrass me and get everyone to call me either Charlie or Charles, and I wasn’t looking forward to introducing myself to any of his buddies. So instead I sat across the cafeteria, staring at the blank white walls, pecking at my sandwich, and occasionally glancing at the other kids, only to immediately drop my head down and stare at the table once I met Logan’s insolent gaze. Once in a while I’d manage to pick up bits and pieces of a conversation from another table between Logan and his group—“Charlie” and “weird” and “snake” along with the occasional “wimp” and “freak.” I decided to stop listening, hurt by those comments and angry at Logan for making this a very welcome first day.
The rest of the day went on like that—whispers, stares, giggles. By eighth period I found myself counting down the number of minutes left until the bell. I could have sworn time was frozen. But, after a few centuries, it was three o’clock and the piercing ring signaling dismissal echoed throughout the building. Without waiting for my “walking home buddy,” I raced out of the school and started on my way home.
I enjoyed my solitude as I walked down the lonely dirt road. It gave me time to think, time to just take in my surroundings. Not that there was anything spectacular in this neighborhood, of course, but still. Time to take it all in. The walk from the school to my house took about a half hour. The only thing to do was to find a rock in the middle of the road and kick it as I walked down the side of the street. It at least entertained me to find out how many times I could kick the rock without losing it before the street ended. It was a challenge I accepted every day on the way home. My game ended once I reached the tilted street post that leaned to one side on the corner. Then a sidewalk formed that led down my whole street, stretching for miles and miles over a few hills, past a small creek, a few farms and several potato fields. Mine and Logan’s houses were the only ones on our street, with the exception of one abandoned building we’d walk past on the way home. It was ancient, the color of the night sky, without a solid foundation or a secure roof. The window panes each hung by one nail, eager to fall off with the slightest touch, and very few shards of glass remained intact. Mom always told me to never set foot in that house; it was too dangerous. Naturally, it became the main object of my interest.
As I walked home in my isolation that awful day, I cautiously took a few steps towards the front entrance of the house and peered through a shattered window. It was dark. The walls were painted with dust and decorated with sticky cobwebs. If my house was home to the seven dwarves, then this house was home to the evil queen.
I bounced the possibilities back and forth, debating whether I should play the fairytale hero and explore, or just go back home to my cottage. The second didn’t seem as interesting, so I finally approached the majestic door and grasped the cool metal handle. My heart beat anxiously as I nervously pushed down on the doorknob. It was locked. The evil queen must have taken the key with her.
I examined every corner, hoping to find some way in. In the wooden wall below the main window, I noticed an area where the faded black paint was starting to peel and the wood was beginning to rot. Eager to learn the secrets hidden in the old house, I dropped to my knees and thoroughly surveyed the area. A little pull to the left, another tug on the right, and sure enough, there was already an existing hole through the thin wood.
I dove through the narrow opening excitedly. Finally, something interesting in this country neighborhood! I stretched my hands out towards something to hold onto as I pulled myself through, but I only brushed the dust-covered floor.
I pulled….and pulled…..and pulled……..and then I realized I had forgotten to take my backpack off. I was completely stuck in the middle of the wall.
Suddenly, I felt a sticky liquid drip onto the back of my neck, followed by a heavy panting coming from behind. I groaned in frustration. Of course, he and his stupid dog had to show up just now!
“Havin’ a little trouble there?” a mocking voice asked with a snicker.
“I’m fine! Just go away!” I panicked.
“You sure, Charlie? You seem like you need a little help,” Logan sardonically offered. I couldn’t see his face, seeing as my head was inside the house, but I just know that right then he flashed his evil crocodile smile.
“None that you can give,” I coolly replied. “Now why don’t you and your disgusting mutt mind your own business and go home?”
“All right, all right!” He backed off. “But in case you ever need some advice, Steve is an expert at slithering through small places like that,” Logan taunted.
Logan turned and directed his dog down the street. Once he was about ten feet away, he turned around again and shouted, “Oh, yeah, one more thing! You probably shouldn’t climb through that hole anymore! I got pretty scratched up from it once!”
I growled. “Yeah, thanks for the advice! Sure will come in handy from now on!”
The minutes ticked away slowly. Every second felt like a lifetime as I pushed and pulled, twisted and turned, trying to wiggle out of the wall, but I only seemed to get more stuck. It was no use. So, I did what every normal person would do if they were stuck in the bottom of the wall and lay there waiting for the fairytale hero to come and rescue me. They had to be around somewhere.
After about fifteen minutes, the sound of footsteps crunching through leaves grew louder behind me.
“Charlotte! You know I specifically told you to never set foot in this house! Why on earth did you disobey me? Do you know how ridiculous you look in there? Oh, what would the neighbors think? I’ve been panicking for half an hour, wondering where you could possibly be! Why couldn’t you do the sensible thing? Had that kind boy not come over to tell me where you were, I would have died of worry!”
My mother’s steady stream of reprimands flowed through one ear and out the other, only to be repeated and repeated and repeated by another rush of furious expressions.
“I’m sorry, Mom! I won’t do it again! Can you please just help me out of here?”
Mom sighed. “Just don’t scare me like that again,” she said as she took hold of my leg and pulled me out.
“Hey, what did you mean, the ‘kind boy’?”
“The one on our street, your age,” Mom replied.
I hate that “kind” boy.
The next day in school, I noticed that there was another girl who hadn’t been there the day before. She’d been at that school last year, so she already knew everyone—that is, everyone but me. Still, it seemed like she didn’t have many friends, so at lunch, she sat by me. It was a very shy introduction. We told each other our names, how old we were, what we liked to do, how much I wished I could trade my messy curls for her sleek brown hair, the usual. I knew from the beginning that it would be the start of a great friendship.
A few days later we were assigned to do a group project for science class. Awesome! I thought. I can get to know Ava better! There was only one catch—there was one other person in our group.
“So, what should we do our project on?” I asked while lying upside-down on our living room couch.
“We could build our own compost,” Ava suggested, ever the practical one.
“That’s lame! How ‘bout we find out how many rats Steve can swallow whole in one minute?”
I glared at him while he smirked, showing off his pointy crocodile teeth.
“Oh, grow up Logan! Would you please try to be helpful for once?” Evidently my new friend couldn’t put up with him either. I knew I’d like her.
“I am being helpful. I’m suggesting projects that aren’t stupid and girly.”
“We could see what happens when we bake a cake and leave out certain ingredients,” I proposed.
Logan threw his hands in the air. “Why did I have to get stuck with a bunch of girls for my project?” he groaned.
Why did I have to move in next to him, of all people?
Ava rolled her eyes. “Well, you’re stuck with us until our project’s over, and that’s a fact, so you might as well work hard now and get it done faster.”
“Fine! But could you please just pick a more exciting project?!”
“Sure. What do you suggest? Besides anything involving snakes or rats.”
I dropped to the floor and buried my face in the carpet, nearly screaming in exasperation. Logan hardly glanced at his bare wrist before exclaiming, “Oh, goodness! Look at the time! I gotta get home now before my mom starts dinner! See ya later!” With that, he raced to the door and slammed it after him.
“Well, at least he’s gone now.”
“Yeah, but he refused to do anything!” I clasped the roots of my hair, ready to yank them out of my head.
“Just don’t worry about him,” Ava said calmly. “We can still figure out a project we can do without him. If he doesn’t like it, too bad. He chose not to help decide anyway.”
“So, what do you suggest then?”
Ava shrugged. “A volcano?”
“Well, what do you wanna do?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I just can’t think of anything today. My brain’s shot.”
“Well, I don’t have to go home for another hour or so, so what do you want to do?” Leave it to Ava to fix everything.
We ended up just going out in my backyard and swinging back and forth on the blocks of wood my dad tied to some rope and looped around one of the branches of a tall apple tree. The cool breeze brushed against my face as I dragged my feet on the unhealthy grass that leaned to the side in mourning as I carelessly kicked their companions, the decaying apples that had fallen off the tree, across the ground. In an instant I was soaring above the little graveyard, free from the sorrow and loneliness that encompassed the isolated neighborhood. I was flying into the clouds, into my own little bubble, my own world, until a voice yanked me out of my imagination and back down to the ground.
“You know, I think you should at least give him a chance.” Ava looked up at me with wide eyes, expressing sincerity instead of the hint of a joke I had hoped to find.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. Really?”
“You know, I’ve known Logan for at least a couple years, and he’s not as bad as you think. A little immature, sure, but that isn’t any different than the rest of the guys at school, is it?”
I shrugged, knowing she’d made a point, but not willing to admit it. “At least the other guys don’t hold snakes in your face.”
“Yeah, but I don’t think he was trying to do that to be mean to you. It was more of his idea of a joke. Not a very funny one, but I don’t think he’s singled you out as his target. He’s only trying to tease you, to get a reaction.”
Why must Ava know everything? She sounds like my mother, I thought.
“Oh, really?” I scoffed. “And why would he do that?”
“I think he just wants to be your friend.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but just then my mom opened the back door and called “Ava, your mom’s here!”
Before Ava left, she told me to “think about it.” I assumed she meant think about what we could do for the project, since I didn’t really want to think giving Logan another chance.
My mom said we still had about an hour ‘til dinner, so I looked around for a place I could be alone to think. I didn’t want to stay in the backyard after the conversation I had with Ava, and my sister Karolyn was playing with toys in our bedroom, so I ran out the front door and raced across the street. This time, I wouldn’t be so stupid as to get in with my backpack on.
The sun was barely leaving to hide behind the mountains when I approached the house. It took a lot more effort to see than it did in midafternoon, but I could still make out the darkened area in the bottom of the wall where the hole was. Without giving it a second thought, I dropped on my stomach to the ground, stretched my arms through the opening, and pulled myself through.
It was as dark as a cave, but I could still see shadowy figures surrounding me, what I assumed to be furniture claimed by no one but dust. A chair in the corner, a display chest across the room, a couch facing an empty wall where I guessed a TV used to be, a boy sitting on the couch—a boy on the couch?
“Oh, hey Charlie!”
“What are you doing here?”
Logan patted the seat next to him, inviting me to sit down, but I took the chair in the corner. “Reading.” He held up a copy of Oliver Twist with the corner of a comic book peeking out from behind. “This is the only place I can go to get some peace and quiet when Ellie starts throwing tantrums.”
I remembered how Logan had claimed it was his baby sister who flung meatballs at me the night I was over to his house for dinner, and I wondered how vicious she could possibly be. Probably not any more than my own little sister.
“So, why are you here?” Logan asked.
“Same. Needed somewhere quiet to think, which definitely wasn’t at my house.”
Logan grinned crocodilishly. “Well, I hate to tell you this, but this is private property and I could turn you in for trespassing.”
I suppressed a laugh. “Dork! If you turned me in, then I would turn you in, genius.”
“Yes, well, see, here’s the thing. My uncle runs the police station a couple miles away, and he wouldn’t get me in trouble, now, would he,” he said cockily.
“Oh, you are such a liar! Why do you want me out of here anyway? Don’t I have as much of a right to be here as you?”
“And why not?”
“Well, for starters, I’ve lived here longer.”
“Stupid! I’ve been awesome longer.”
“Uh huh, sure, but there’s something else.” Logan leaned forward and motioned me to come closer, as if to tell me a secret. “This place is crawling with slippery, slimy reptiles I think you wouldn’t like,” he whispered. “I found like three of them just in the past week! I killed ‘em all, of course, so if you really wanna stay, I s’pose I can protect you from the venomous snakes, since you wouldn’t be able to even look at them, let alone kill one.”
I rolled my eyes, somewhat offended, but not too much to hide. “Wow, not only are you a liar, but you’re a really bad one.”
“What can I say, I’m an honest person. It’s a virtue.”
“Just ‘cause you’re bad at it doesn’t mean you’re not a liar, stupid!” I snickered.
“Sure it does! It proves that I’m good in heart.”
“You’re pathetic. So anyway, you didn’t even answer my question.”
“Question? What question? The only question I heard was ‘Oh, Logan, why are you so amazing?’” he said in a squeaky, high-pitched voice while bobbing his head back and forth cockily.
“Stop it! I don’t sound like that at all!” I was so fed up, but his imitation of me was so ridiculous I couldn’t hold back a laugh.
“’Course you do. That’s what all girls sound like. But anyway, I have a question for you.”
“Why do you hate snakes?”
I took time to think before answering, knowing that he could easily use my words against me. “Oh, I dunno, ‘cause they look just like you.”
Logan gave me a disapproving look. “No really.”
“Because they’re slimy and gross and sometimes deadly!”
Logan laughed. “Wimp!”
“Well, it’s your turn. What are you afraid of?”
“Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I’m probably the bravest guy on earth. I mean, I can’t even count how many lions and tigers and bears I’ve fought off with my bare hands.”
“Come on, you have to be afraid of something.”
“Well, let’s see…I guess there is one thing I’m absolutely terrified of.”
I raised my eyebrows. “And what’s that?”
Logan’s voice dropped to a whisper, his eyes quickly scanned the room, as if it whatever he was about to tell me was his most embarrassing secret. Was he really going to confide in me? Was I the only person who would know his secret? “I am absolutely terrified of………. girls.”
I jerked up and glared at his laughing eyes. “That’s not funny!” Alright, so now he’s not just a bad liar, but a really bad comedian.
“That’s not funny!” he mimicked. “It’s true, though. Girls are like so obsessed with hair and clothes and makeup…...and guys…..eeuuuuhhhhehh.” He feigned shivering in disgust. “Haven’t you noticed, Charlie? They’re horrifying!”
“Yep, that’s it. Girls are freaks of nature and guys rule the earth.”
Logan’s mouth stretched into a wide grin. “Yeah, pretty much. You catch on pretty fast, Charlie.”
“So if you are sooooo superior, why do you even talk to me?”
“I dunno. You seemed different.”
“Oh, I don’t know. You seemed like one of the guys.”
“You’re calling me a guy?” Rule number one for a guy—NEVER, EVER call a girl a guy!
“No, not like that, Charlie—”
“Even that’s a guy’s name! Never mind, I’d better get going anyways. Wouldn’t want to scare you anymore.” And with that I stood up, crawled through the teeny space in the wall, and stormed home.
Why the heck would he say something like that? Either he was trying to really, really annoy me, which he’s pretty good at, or he was sincerely trying to give me a compliment. I highly doubt it, but if so, then he is really, really bad at it. At least Ava’s not here to make me believe the second is true. But, obviously, if he thought I was like “one of the guys,” he’d know I wouldn’t be so freaked out by that stupid snake. And what on earth even happened there? For a minute it seemed like we were kinda…getting along….No, that would never happen. Not in a gazillion years.
I didn’t talk to Logan at school the next day. Or the next. Not in class, not at lunch. We caught each other’s eyes a few times, but both dropped our glances, ashamed. I avoided him on the walk home, and kept my distance from his “reading” clubhouse. Our teacher sought to intervene, though, and we were forced together again. Drat that stupid science project.
“Class, you only have two more weeks to finish up your projects before the science fair so I expect you all to work hard today!” Ms. Wood announced. “Get in your groups!”
I groaned as I walked to the corner of the classroom to meet Ava and Logan and discuss the dreaded project. Ava, always quick to get down to business, questioned, “So, have you guys thought of any other ideas for projects?”
I made eye contact with Logan for half a second before we both stared back at the floor in silence.
“Well?” Silence. “What’s wrong with you guys?” Ava’s eyes narrowed in both concern and annoyance.
“Oh, nothing,” Logan quickly responded.
“Okay…” Ava’s voice inflected with hesitation.
“I sort of had an idea,” Logan offered quietly.
Ava raised her eyebrows impatiently. “Well, spill it!”
Logan’s eyes darted in my direction for a brief moment, then remained focused on Ava. “Well, I was thinking that maybe we could collect rocks from different places, right. And then we analyze the different types and their correlation to where we found them.”
What? No crocodile smile? Is he serious? Rocks? Correlation? That sounds very dull…and possibly intellectual…wait. Logan? Intellectual? No way. But it could be scientific I guess….and incredibly boring.
Ava cupped her chin with her hands, contemplating his suggestion. “I suppose…that might...actually work! Let me go grab my project notebook. Be back in a jiff!”
Logan and I glared at each other in silence.
“Rocks? Really?” I finally spoke up, with maybe a hint too much sarcasm.
“What’s wrong with that?” he replied coolly.
“Oh, I don’t know, just that it’s kind of LA—AME!”
“Yeah, well I’d like to see you come up with a better project.”
“Heck, your own mother could come up with a better project than that. Oh, oops, I’m sorry, I forgot. You don’t even have a real mom, do you.”
Logan’s eyes jerked down to the floor, breaking his glance.
“I’m back! So, Ms. Wood thought that rocks are a totally great project so we’d better get working fast! Where should we start? We always need to start with an observation, and then a hypothesis, and……”
I sat on the bank, dangling my feet in the icy water rushing downhill. Where could he be? I thought impatiently. He said to meet at the creek at 3:30! I glanced at my left wrist. 4:13. What was taking him so long? It’s not like I can get a head start. I don’t even know what kind of rocks we’re looking for, and Ava has art class so she can’t help. If Logan doesn’t show up soon, I’m gonna be extremely angry at him for wasting forty-five minutes of my time.
Just as I was debating whether to go home or wait it out, an obscure figure appeared in the distance.
“Charlotte?” Well, it definitely wasn’t Logan. “Charlotte, I’m so sorry! We had to rush Logan to the hospital, so he won’t be able help with your project!” his mom shouted over the crashes of water.
“Wait, he’s in the hospital?” I yelled back in disbelief. “Why? Is he sick? Or did he just do one of his stupid guy dares and cracked his head open?”
Logan’s mom walked closer, close enough for me to see tears forming in her eyes. “No, honey. He’s—he’s—” she faltered. “He has cancer, and he probably isn’t going to last much longer.” Tears spilled out the brim of her eyes, mimicking the violent rush of the stream.
I stumbled back, barely managing to avoid several large stones behind me. “No! He can’t die! He can’t have cancer! This has to be some trick of his! He’s probably faking it to scare me! To get a reaction! That’s just what he does!”
Her eyes filled with sympathy towards me. “As much as I wish that was true, we’ve known for a long time about the cancer. We knew he wouldn’t last more than a few years, and I think it’s his time now. I’m so sorry, Charlotte. I know this is really hard for you. You haven’t even known him that long. But I am glad he at least had the chance to meet you. He really did like you, you know. All he needed was a friend, and you were that to him,” she said sorrowfully, before spinning on one heel and walking back down the lonely street.
I was? I was a friend to him? It’s not like we got along very well, and I wasn’t even all that nice to him, was I? Not that he was any nicer, though. I can’t believe he’s really going to be….gone. After all the mean things I said to him, too. I can’t even take them back now. I can’t make things right…or can I?
It took a while to process what had happened before I was forced to bury my face in my hands to catch the tears. I don’t know how long I stayed by the creek. Several hours, maybe more, but I couldn’t go home. I didn’t want the comfort from anyone but the angry waves beating against the ground. It was my punishment for judging him too hard without even knowing much about him. Finally, well after dark, I made my way home, not even bothering to kick a single rock.
A day later, I stood on the front porch of a seemingly quiet house and tapped on the door.
“Hi, Mrs. Parker,” I greeted once she answered the door. “I was wondering if you could possibly give this to Logan for me.” I extended my hand, offering her a faded piece of paper containing a written apology, tearstained and crinkled from its time in my pocket.
“What’s this?” she accepted the note.
“Just something for Logan. I said something really rude earlier, and I needed to make things right.”
“Sure, sweetie. He’ll really appreciate it, I’m sure. He keeps talking about you and Ava, too,” she said with a smile. “He feels absolutely awful that he won’t be able to help you guys with your science project—”
“Oh, he shouldn’t though! It’s not like it’s his fault or anything, and I’m sure he’d have higher priorities in his life if he wasn’t—well—.” I am really bad at this whole “sorry for your loss” thing.
Mrs. Parker’s eyes filled with sympathy for me. “Don’t worry about it, honey. Speaking of your project, did you figure out what you’re going to do? Logan mentioned that you weren’t too thrilled about rocks. Not that I blame you, really,” she laughed. “But, he was so fascinated with them for some reason. He definitely didn’t get that from me, that’s for sure,” she expressed, blinking back tears.
“I just wanted to let you know that I am really sorry about what happened. Logan was—” I hesitated. “He was a great kid.”
Mrs. Parker allowed a single tear to roll down her cheek. “Thank you,” she barely whispered.
I pivoted on one heel, about to start the walk home, when I was called back. “Charlotte! I forgot to give you something!”
Did she know I was coming? Why would she have something for me?
She held out a plain, white envelope containing my name scribbled in one corner. “He made me promise to give you this once I saw you again.”
I accepted with a brief “thank you” and hurried home, anxious to reveal what was hidden inside. Finally, once I reached the solitude of my little block of wood and apple tree, I sliced through the envelope and pulled out the contents with shaking hands. Inside were an ordinary, dull rock and a short note.
So, I was gonna leave Steve to you in my will, but I didn’t think you’d really appreciate it. Anyways, I realized that I guess I kinda was a bit of a jerk to you, you know, with Steve and school and all that. And sorry for calling you one of the guys. I didn’t mean that as an insult, more of, sorta, I guess, a compliment (you know, ‘cause guys are so much better. And you admitted it too, so there). I mean, ‘cause, well, I kinda had a—and don’t get me wrong here—maybe a teeny, tiny, itty-bitty, little crush on you—But believe me, that was long gone after a couple seconds. You know, ‘cause you kinda hated me, or at least acted like it (is that ‘cause you actually liked me too!? Haha. Kidding. Seriously. Don’t take offense to that. I know girls are easily offended. And yes, I am acknowledging that you are a girl, not a guy. That better?) But anyway, insert serious tone of voice now. That must be really hard to do, huh, Charlie, knowing me. Honestly though, time to stop laughing. I know you can’t get over it, but time to anyway, because the truth is, I’m gonna be gone soon, and I have a few more things to say. Hopefully I won’t ramble anymore like I’ve been doing pretty much this whole entire note. There’s my ADD kicking in. What was I even talking about? Oh yeah. I just wanted you to know that even though I wasn’t really the nicest person to you, it wasn’t because I disliked you. I hope you’ll still remember me when I’m gone (just not in a bad way, though, okay Charlie?)
P.S. Good luck on our science project.
P.P.S. Sorry for getting you stuck with the name Charlie, but you know, it really does suit you better than Charlotte.
Once I finished the note, a smile stretched across and tears dripping down my face, I promised that I wouldn’t ever forget him.
One. Two. Then three. Four. Five. Six. Six kicks, a new record! I grin, remembering all the fights, all the dumb conversations Logan and I had as I play my little game on the way down the street.
“Hey, we have to get our project done!” Ava yells, breaking me free from my memories. “Are we still on for collecting rocks?”
“Of course! Why wouldn’t we be?”
Ava’s face breaks into a smile. “I knew you would understand him sometime, Charlotte.”
I stoop over to retrieve my plain, ordinary, and ever-so-incredibly special rock. “Call me Charlie.”